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Closed Restaurants Team Up With Nonprofit To Help Feed The Needy During Coronavirus Pandemic

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As many restaurants and school districts shut down or cut back, thousands of pounds of perishable food have been donated and turned into frozen dinners at the Green Oceanside Kitchen, which is operated by the nonprofit O'side Kitchen Collaborative.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego's North County has a unique resource to distribute food to the needy. Amid the Corona virus outbreak, the green Oceanside kitchen opened its door last year. It's run by the nonprofit Oh side kitchen collaborative volunteers are currently making hundreds of meals using donated ingredients from local restaurants that have had to close the collaboratives. Co-founder is Heather soar. Jean, she spoke with KPBS is Alison st John recently about the partnership.

Speaker 2: 00:29 Now the covert 19 pandemic has suddenly expanded your mission. Tell us what you're doing. As of now.

Speaker 3: 00:35 Initially we have been rescuing local food that would otherwise go to waste. So agricultural surplus, but with the restaurant closures there had been food inventories that would be going to waste if not for us, rescuing them and using them to feed our at risk community members.

Speaker 2: 00:54 So what kind of food have you had donated?

Speaker 3: 00:56 Oh, we've had pallets of potatoes and um, all sorts of fresh produce and a lot of citrus as well.

Speaker 2: 01:05 So now, um, what sort of dishes are you preparing? I should imagine that sometimes you're getting some unexpected ingredients coming in. Do you have to sometimes rapidly be very creative and think, what can I do with this now?

Speaker 3: 01:18 Well we do and we were born for this where a zero waste kitchen. And so we use every part of the produce. Oh, they've made a really fabulous Paya. They have made, um, beautiful Turkey dinner, uh, made with Turkey breast rescued from the Oceanside unified school district and sun butter. We've made all different types of wraps. We make our own salad dressing and we also, uh, Prager brothers bread company donates fresh bread to us daily by hundreds of pounds. So we're even able to make our own crew Toms for the salads that we, uh, put out the creativity inside our kitchen with all of the chefs. Uh, they, they were born for this, the, you know, they've, you know, they get a certain type of grain in a certain type of produce. They know six things they can make with it.

Speaker 2: 02:13 So now this is kind of like a community kitchen, right? It opened just last year, um, funded by the city of Oceanside, I guess. So you've got a wonderful facility, but do you have enough people to do all the work that you're now doing?

Speaker 3: 02:27 Well, our organization is primarily run by volunteers, so we have, we have lots of volunteers enough to keep to enough hands on deck to make sure that the food that's coming in gets weighed and stored appropriately and prepared all while keeping to the CDC guidelines with the social distancing that we're dealing with now.

Speaker 2: 02:50 Yes. That must be quite tricky to manage, I should imagine. So now where is all this food going to?

Speaker 3: 02:56 What all side kitchen collaborative does is we create the meals and we prepare them and box them up ready to go, and then we provide curbside service to feeding organizations. Oh side kitchen collaborative is not a feeding organization, but we work with feeding organizations. So any organization like from a Oceanside homeless outreach to st Vincent DePaul, anybody who has members that are immunocompromised or just experience food insecurity in general are welcome to pull up to the curb and take meals. All we ask is that you call us in advance and let us know how many meals are needed at the, we can have them.

Speaker 2: 03:38 Oh, I understand that ocean side, the city of ocean has also sponsored you some extra folks to actually help some cooks. Is that right?

Speaker 3: 03:45 Yes, we are so excited. So the city of Oceanside, uh, believes in what we're doing and has put their money where their mouth is. So we have been able to, uh, earmark 500 meals per day. They are sponsoring us purchasing food inventories from the restaurants that have been experiencing temporary closures. So instead of just receiving donations from them, now we are able to stimulate our local restaurant community by, by paying them for the food inventory that they've already purchased. We're also, uh, because of the funding from city of ocean side are able to hire out of work, restaurant food workers. So all of our, all of our staff that we have are, are, are top notch and from the local community. And we love that.

Speaker 2: 04:34 So the city is actually helping not only to keep some more people employed but also perhaps to keep some of those restaurants, um, sponsored through this with, with their budget. Interesting. So for the average member of the public, is that, what is the best thing that they could do to assist in this? I mean, are you still open for requests? Do you want people to help driving? What kind of volunteers are you looking for?

Speaker 3: 05:02 Okay, well we have lots of avenues to help and I would encourage anybody to reach out to us directly@infoattheokc.org if you have any ideas or questions or comments. But we are looking for a receiving organizations. If you would like to receive meals to distribute yourself, please reach out to us if you have any other skills that you could maybe offer by working remotely, we'd love to hear from you too. Uh, we also are looking for financial funding. So if you have a company or if you would personally like to donate, we have an Avenue for that as well. And it would be helpful in expanding our program to capacity. I'd like to note that in the last 11 days that we've been running this community response, we've rescued 6,709 pounds of food, and we have served 4,462 meals. That was Heather soar, Jean, head of the osad kitchen collaborative, speaking with KPBS Ellison st John.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.